Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Triangle Brewing Company

UPDATE Sept 30--I had occasion this weekend to try this off of two other taps (one at Piedmont, and another at Bull McCabe's) and the beer is 100% better. Per Barry's comment below, the word is the tap at Satisfaction is fine now, too.

My working theory is that we either got a bad keg or it was just too damn young.

Needless to say, I am glad to report I mentioned in the original post, I am very happy to have someone brewing in Durham, and I want to do everything I can to support the business in my neighborhood.

As far as a revised review goes: golden and slightly cloudy with a light and lacy head. Fruit and flowers on the nose, and a palette well-balanced among crispness, sweetness, and alcohol. Refreshing and quite drinkable; wine-like, in that it is probably better with food (hearty salads, roasted vegetables, fish, poultry, and maybe even pork) than without--at least for me. (Necessary caveat: I am a bit of a hophead, so my preferences for session beers tend towards pales and IPAs, especially in warmer weather.)

As to where this falls on the continuum of North American brewers doing "Belgian" beers--I'd say they're not quite up there with the well-established specialists, but significantly better than most NA microbreweries that are just dabbling. Which is to say that with some time and refinement, they have the potential to be known as one of the specialists.

Nicely done, gentlemen. Let's have a dubbel this winter, shall we?

----original review below----

OK, this one is hard for me to write. Seriously.

I'd heard rumblings about the Triangle Brewing Company, which was allegedly setting up shop here in Durham, for a few months now. They have finally gone public with their "flagship" Belgian Style Golden Ale, which I went to Satisfaction's tonight to try.

I'll just rip this band-aid off: it isn't very good. As much as I want to boost the local guys, if I'm not willing to give a negative review when it's deserved, I have zero credibility when I rave. This ain't Rachel Ray's beer blog, is what I'm saying.

Now, a Belgian strong golden (or pale) is a pretty ambitious style to launch with. Many good examples exist, and achieving the proper balance between grains, fruits, yeast, sugar and alcohol is really quite an art. The brewers that really know what they are doing with this have a few centuries of experience to fall back upon...and the North American brewers that have had success in this style include heavyweights like Unibroue, Allagash, and Russian River.

So sure, it sucks when your first beer is getting compared to Duvel and Fin du Monde, but that's the choice that TBC has made here. I applaud their moxie, but they are just way off the mark. The glass I had poured golden with virtually no head, fruit (pineapple, maybe?) on the nose, biscuit at the front followed by a pretty overwhelming (almost sickening) sweetness. Alcohol became more prominent as the beer warmed. Hops nowhere in sight. To tell the truth, it tastes too young--maybe they rushed this batch out the door too quickly? And really--it needs more carbonic acidity to balance the sweetness and more head to stir up the aromatics that I assume are there but buried in sugar and alcohol.

All of that said, I wish the guys at TBC nothing but success, but I do hope that they consider producing something a little easier to pull off, and soon. Personally, I will loyally consume even a merely good pale ale if it's brewed down the street from me.

And many other Durhamites will too.


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